I hold the Resident Evil franchise very close to my heart. It, along with the original Metal Gear Solid, sold me on the PlayStation. It was those two franchises that made me break away from the kung-fu grip Nintendo and Sega held over me growing up.
But the Resident Evil I fell in love with isn’t the Resident Evil we see today. In some respect, I’m fine with the franchise’s shift from an atmospheric survival horror fright fest to a bombastic action extravaganza a la Michael Bay. I think we can all agree the controls of the franchise have evolved into something that’s, well, actually playable. That’s one thing Capcom has gotten right with Resident Evil over the years.
But there’s no ignoring the biggest elephant in the room: Resident Evil used to be synonymous with horror. It isn’t anymore. Not by a long shot. When discussing the not-so-humble beginnings of the horror genre, you couldn’t go a few sentences without mentioning games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. So to see the franchise move so far away from that in recent years is a bit concerning.
As a company, Capcom wants to hit the largest demographic possible to make as much money as they can with their franchises, but who’s to say that can’t be done with a horror game? Shooters, whether first-person or third, have the market by the balls right now, so the idea should not be to step in line and be another face in the crowd, but instead embrace your uniqueness to differentiate yourself from the pack. Resident Evil can, and should do this.
May I suggest a reboot?
"Reboot." When the word is uttered you can practically feel the epic eye rolls wash over the globe like a devastating tidal wave.
But hear me out: the entire convoluted history of Resident Evil needs be eradicated from existence. That should be the franchise’s first step to recovery, and that’s coming from a diehard fan. We hit a point of no return when we fought a ‘roided up Albert Wesker in the middle of an erupting volcano at the end of Resident Evil 5. There’s no coming back from that.
Video courtesy of YouTube user Jerikuto
If Capcom wants to get back to basics and return Resident Evil to its past glory, it’s not only about returning to gameplay that retains the survival horror aspects of the franchise’s earlier titles, but also wiping the slate clean in regards to the narrative. We need a fresh take, something much simpler that is easily digestible for newcomers and old fans alike. Because let’s be honest, if someone was interested in Resident Evil 6 from the game’s commercials and they asked you to explain the setup, you’d lose them within a minute.
Take lessons from DmC.
I think Capcom can, and should take a few pointers from another one of their franchises that was recently rebooted, Devil May Cry. What Ninja Theory did with that property is astonishing, introducing a whole new take on a stale brand while still managing to retain the core of what the franchise is all about from a gameplay perspective. I know some Devil May Cry fans don’t agree with that viewpoint, but from where I’m standing, DmC was a success; it made me interested in the Devil May Cry franchise for the first time, and now I’m in it for the long haul. Resident Evil needs a similar approach.
Capcom would be wise to hand the series off to some third-party developer, a team that would bring a fresh perspective to the entire brand, and let them go nuts creatively. Put a little faith in their take and give them the freedom to experiment. The only guideline should be to take inspiration from early Resident Evil titles. Go scary; go atmospheric; make the player feel alone and trapped. Every other aspect, from characters to gameplay to story, should be left up to whatever development studio Capcom puts in charge of the project.
Don’t oversaturate the market.
Lastly, and this steps in line with the relaunch idea, but don’t oversaturate the market with new Resident Evil titles. Start simple and expand out from there. Just make sure to avoid franchise fatigue, which is something the RE brand is currently suffering from.
In a recent interview with Video Gamer, Resident Evil: Revelations producer Masachika Kawata touched on this very subject, saying, “I think certainly looking at the last year or two, there probably were a few too many [titles].”
We absolutely did not need Operation Raccoon City.
Kawata went on to say that staggering out games just to change up the release schedule isn’t the solution either. Instead, "We should always start by asking how do we make the games better,” said Kawata. “And if the solution to making the games better is to have a more staggered release than we've had recently then that's something we'll do. But we'll do it for that reason and not just for flipping what we've done already."
I think Kawata is absolutely right. Resident Evil has been spread thin over the last few years, there’s no denying that. But the solution to the problem isn’t just delaying future titles without changing any of the core mechanics. Resident Evil, from top to bother, has become tiresome and bland. The only solution that makes sense to me is a complete overhaul. It’s a drastic move, but one that, if DmC is any indication, will pay off and will breathe new life into a dying brand.
Capcom can make this limping zombie run again.